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The Weekend Murders (1970)

The Weekend Murders may not be strictly British (well, not British at all, to be honest) - but for the first couple of minutes it comes across as one of the most "English" films ever made. A village bobby leaves his station on his pushbike, with a cry of "Mornin', padre", to the strains of music cribbed direct from a Carry On film. He cycles past scenes of rural idyll, until coming across a group playing golf.

Then you realise that everyone there (including the bobby himself) has a distinctly Mediterranean look about them (all the blokes have 'taches and every girl looks like a clone of Sophia Loren).

With alarm bells already ringing, the tone of the film takes a leap Europe-wards with gusto, suddenly turning into a Sergio Leone shoot-out (without the guns). Close-ups on eyes abound, shifty left-right looks are de rigeur, as a particularly foxy Loren-alike takes a swing at her bunkered ball to reveal a hand sticking up out of the sand.

Yes, The Weekend Murders is NOT British (it's actually Italian), but it is an example of Johnny foreigner showing us just what the rest of the Common Market think of us and our dullard policemen. It's an Agatha Christie-style whodunit (with shades of The Cat And The Canary), filmed here and with a smattering of British talent (if Lance "Carry On Cruising" Percival and Ballard Berkely, the Major out of Fawlty Towers, can be called that). There's also a bucket of blood on view (although not all of it real) and enough twists and turns (and Euro film-making flair) to keep the attention right to the end. So it might not be strictly a British horror film, but it's near enough to count.

The discovery of the body in the bunker brings the body count up to three, according to Inspector Gray of Scotland Yard (Percival). Our friendly buck-toothed bobby, Sgt Thorpe, suggests that they reconstruct events, going back to "the day before the reading of the will"…

As a rich family arrive at a stately home for the reading, there's much intrigue and back-biting. Of particular note amongst the anonymous-looking men and mainly-gorgeous, but similar-looking women, are Georgie, an unstable 20-something cuckolded by his mother, and Barbara, the distant relative who looked after the dead man during his last years.

Georgie in particular is a right pain in the arse - staging an elaborate fake suicide involving a cut-throat razor and a bath full of blood, and going on to make it look like a sleeping man has had a knife stuck into him (much to the surprise of the man himself). At the reading of the will, no-one (except the cast) is surprised to find that wide-eyed Barbara has been left pretty much everything (the Police Sergeant is there because he was friends with the deceased and received his collection of azaleas).

"Little miss Florence Nightingale had it all figured out, she did! The sneaky bitch!" spits Georgie's mother (or someone dubbing her) on hearing the news.

Georgie, ever-eager to stir things, mentions that Barbara's probably not old enough to have made a will, and so if she dies, the inheritance would be divided up between them. And then the butler (Berkeley, who also appears to be dubbed, for some reason) is found dead in the greenhouse…

Inspector Gray of The Yard is called in to investigate, and immediately someone takes a pot-shot at Barbara. As Gray's investigation progresses (complete with comedy tape recorder shenanigans) it becomes clear that Gray himself is useless, but Thorpe may not be the hopeless dentally-challenged hayseed he's made himself out to be.

Red herrings and intrigue abound - not least in the increasingly psychotic behaviour of young Georgie (at one point he nearly seduces the stunningly attractive maid, but can't go through with it because he keeps seeing his mother's face. On returning to mater's breast and giving her a hug, he appears to - to put it politely - mess his pants).

After a while the Inspector's prime suspect shoots himself - leading Gray to conclude that the case is closed. But is it?

Well, no - of course not. There's more deaths to come and a frankly ludicrous (but hugely satisfying) ending. The Weekend Murders takes a well-worn theme and gives it a welcome Euro twist, with some lovely little touches. Worth tracking down, definitissimo.

Last updated: February 27, 2010

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